On the bookshelf: March.

One of my goals this year was to read more books. I used to absolutely love reading and would read a number of books a week. But then life happens and I went to uni and I forgot how to read anything that wasn’t a uni book or an essay. But now I am an adult with an adult job and free time and all that jazz. So, one of the first things I did when I moved to this new place was to become a member of the local library.

My goal is essentially to read a book a week. I didn’t quite achieve that during March but 3/4 isn’t bad. So since we are almost at the end of March here is a summary of the books I read over the last month and what I thought about them.

Happy Endings – Jon Rance.
I was looking forward to reading this book after I read the blurb on the back. It is about 4 people in their late 20’s – 2 couples – who are each battling with what they want from their life. Emma wants to be an actress. Her fiancee Jack wants to be a published writer, if not for himself, to save his relationship. Kate wants to travel before she turns 30 while her boyfriend, Ed just wants to settle down. The book is broken into ‘chapters’ each written from the perspectives of a different character.
As I said, I was excited to read this. I felt like the plot could go anywhere and it did – just not in the ways I was expecting (or really wanted). I was definitely a little disappointed by this one. It wasn’t so much the story line or the style of writing but the actions of the characters themselves. I got way too involved in their lives and was really disappointed in some of the character development. But then maybe that’s the sign of a good novel? I was so involved with the characters I actually got mad when they did stupid things.

Pick this up if you want an easy read and as the title suggests, a happy ending.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – E.Lockhart.
I don’t really know what I was expecting after reading the blurb of this book because it doesn’t reallllly give anything away but I think it kind of live up to my expectations. I wanted to read this book after reading We Were Liars, also by Lockhart. I absolutely loved it and loved Lockhart’s writing style. I will start off by saying this book is no where near as good as We Were Liars. It’s actually described as a ‘feminist novel’ which I don’t think it really lives up too. In fact, Frankie doesn’t seem like a feminist to me. She kind of just got more annoying and stubborn as the book progressed. And the main thing she does is follow the boys around and try to get their approval and get them to let her into their society. That is not a feminist character.
So after I’ve pointed out the negative parts there are actually two reasons why I like this book. One: it was witty. Frankie is a smart character who just really puts her mind towards the wrong things (like trying to prove herself to the males of the society).
Two: it isn’t filled with all the usual themes of a YA novel. There is a little bit of her relationship with Mathew but the main focus really is about Frankie’s obsession with the all male society at her exclusive boarding school.

Once again, an easy read but nothing to jump through hoops to read.

Breathing Under Water – Sophie Hardcastle
Another YA novel here. Breathing Under Water is Hardcastle’s debut novel and is incredibly raw, gut wrenching, and just really emotional overall. It follows the story of twins Gracie and Ben who were born nineteen minutes and eleven seconds apart (Ben being the older twin). Ben is the ‘golden boy’ – rising surf star and the one all the girls want. Because of this, Grace has always kind of blended in the background which is a pretty key plot point.
The blurb gives you are a really obvious clue that some kind of tragedy is going to happen and it is kind of easy to guess it is going to be something to do with Ben since the book is written from Grace’s perspective. I won’t give it away but basically it shows us Grace’s decline after the tragedy and her battle to find herself again. Once again, it was an easy read but the thing I liked most about this novel was the development of Grace’s character (as much as I didn’t like it in parts) and how beautifully emotive Hardcastle’s writing is. I think the themes within the book are relatable for some people, especially those who have found themselves struggling after a big life change.

-M x

What books did you read in March? Let me know in the comments below. 

5 things I’m loving right now.

Earrings from Kingston Jewelry . I first discovered Kingston Jewelry thanks to Leigh Campbell‘s Instagram  (lifestyle editor at Huffington Post Australia). The pair that I bought is featured above and they are just beautiful. I love the bluey-purply colour theme going on. I also wear a lot of black, white and grey so it is a great way for me to inject some colour into my style.
So pretty, so unique and so fun! Just be warned, they sell out in a flash.

This podcast episode from The Merrymaker Sisters. It’s called ‘because… cake (the body image episode)’. Carla & Emma (the mastermind behind The Merrymaker Sisters site) talk about their own issues with body image and really go deep. For someone who suffers with body image and trying to control my eating and exercising  this episode was so relatable. I listened to it and found myself agreeing to everything these girls said. I laughed, I cried and I cried some more. It is a must listen to anyone experiencing body image issues.

Another podcast! This one is a No Filter episode where Mia interviews PR queen Roxy Jacenko. The podcast delves into a lot of topics including Roxy’s no bullshit attitude to life, her husband going to jail, her PR empire, her breast cancer battle, her plastic surgery and her kids. It’s intriguing, its inspiring and it will make you think twice about your opinion of Roxy. I definitely suggest giving it a listen.
Podcast link here.

Hand cream. I was honestly a never a huge user of hand cream when I was a teenager. I think I thought it was something for older people. But damn, I was missing out! I am honestly obsessed with hand cream since I started working. I use it 1-2 times a day and I love how much softer my hands look. I now have a number of hand creams floating around including this Body Shop one in my handbag, this Glasshouse one on my bedside table and this Natio one on my desk at work.

Go-To Skincare Face HeroThis stuff is bloody A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It’s a face oil and according to the website it “deeply hydrates, soothes, revitalizes and completely protects the face against bad guys trying to make it unhappy.” And it honestly does. I generally use it at night time after I shower and cleanse and occasionally put it in my daily moisturiser if my skin looks like it needs an additional perk up. You can buy Face Hero via the Go-To Skincare website.

– M x

What are you loving right now? Share them with me in the comments below.

So, what’s it like living with social anxiety?

Did you know that 1 in 4 people will experience anxiety throughout their lifetime? Specifically, anxiety will affect 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men.

There are a number of different types of anxiety – generalised anxiety, social phobia, specific phobias, OCD, panic disorders and post traumatic stress disorders. The reasons that people experience anxiety are endless – family history, personality, traumatic events, ongoing stressful situations.. The list goes on.

So, what is it like living with anxiety? Or more specifically, social anxiety? Well I can’t speak for everyone with an anxiety disorder but this is how it’s like for me.

I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety in 2015. It wasn’t until I found a decent psychologist that it was actually found to be social anxiety – an anxiety disorder that specifically relates to a fear of most social situations. According to the psychologist I’ve had anxiety and depression for a number of years, dating back to when I started high school.

For me the anxiety developed as a result of a few things.

1. My personality and family history – I am a complete perfectionist. I always have been. I never really saw it as an issue until it was explained to me how closely linked it was with my anxiety.

2. Other mental health issues – my anxiety goes hand in hand with depression. Which, if you happen to experience either one or even both, is a bloody huge struggle.

3. Prolonged stressful environments – hello relationship breakdowns, being cheated on and simultaneous trust issues, having your parents move state. There is tonnes more things I could mention here, but that’d be a whole other blog post.

Back to the point of this post – what is it like living with social anxiety?

For me, this changes day to day. Sometimes my anxiety levels are so bad that I attempt to avoid every single social situation I can. This makes things like going to work, going to the supermarket or even talking to my housemate extremely difficult. And sometimes the anxiety is barely there.

My anxiety has definitely been tested at the moment. I’ve just moved to a new town, started a new job and had to learn what it’s like to be away from your main support network. It’s hard, especially when you are terrified of most social situations.

There can be bad days.

On the bad days I can have as many as 10 panic attacks in a day. This may not seem like a huge number, but for someone with anxiety it is pretty scary.

On the bad days my heart rate sits at an increased rate. I sweat a lot. I constantly fidget. I find it hard to concentrate on anything else except the negative thoughts going on in my head – things like: “don’t ask that question, they’ll think you are dumb,” or “why are people staring at me? Did I do something wrong?”

On the bad days I second guess everything. I worry about needing to get my work done but procrastinate because I can’t start anything as I’m terrified it will be wrong. I’m scared to ask questions to my managers or colleagues because I fear I’ll be judged.

On the bad days I can text love ones multiple times if they don’t reply. I need the constant reassurance from my boyfriend that he loves me and needs me. My mind races if the response to a text or an email is not instantaneous.

“Has something happened?”
“Why won’t they reply?”
“What did I do wrong?”

I essentially shut down and yet from the outside I seem fine. Unless you notice the fidgeting, the inability to sit still, the need to be doing something with my hands at all times. Despite the fear inside there is constantly a smile on the outside.

But then there can be good days.

The good days are managing to go have brunch with friends, go out for drinks. It is being able to socialise in general.

The good days are the days without panic attacks, sweaty hands, a heart that beats too quickly. It is the smile that I can believe. Being able to concentrate on work and not having an underlying fear that I am going to muck things up.

The good days are not second guessing everything or everyone. They are the days without the nagging voice inside my head, the questions going over and over again.

I definitely wouldn’t say that at the moment my weeks are an equal split between the good days and bad days – it is definitely more 70% bad, 30% good. But what I am trying to say is that it is possible to have both. People who have these debilitating mental illnesses can struggle to see out the other side (and I can say this honestly because I have been there). With the correct treatments and help there is the chance to get better and to somewhat function day to day.

The correct treatment for me may be different from someone else who deals with these challenges. I personally rely on both my amazing psychologist and antidepressants. I also have a strong support network, I journal, I exercise and I meditate. I have tried to find balance.

I think if you are someone who also experiences a mental illness it is important to remember it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes it is a messy and scary storm. What helps is putting one foot in front of another and having tactics to deal with the bad day.

If you were troubled by this post or experiencing a personal crisis, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit lifeline.org.au or beyondblue.com.au

Favourite reads of 2016.

So this blog post has been a looooong time coming. I mean, we’re already in March and I’m only just getting around to posting it. But I feel like it is 100 per cent worth the wait (I’m also super biased because this is my blog post..)

Anyway, I digress. This post is all about my absolute favourite reads of 2016. Now, I didn’t read a lot of books last year. I didn’t really have time, between my final year of university, working part time, completing a number of internships and trying to have a social life but it was still pretty difficult to narrow down my favourite reads. As such, they are in no decisive order. And here we go.

Amazinger Face by Zoe Foster Blake.
A book for make up lovers or make up novices like myself. Amazinger Face is an update of Foster Blakes’ 2011 book entitled AMAZING Face (in fact the cute name change is one of my favourite things about the new book). Basically the book is a bible of everything hair, make up, skin, really EVERYTHING any female ever needs to know. She lists her favourite products, makeup looks for any skin tone, practical skin care tips, and step-by-step instructions for the perfect winged liner or how to conceal day 4 unwashed hair.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.
This novel was also released as a movie in 2016, so before I went to watch the movie I read the book. And I loved it! It is a thriller and boy does it thrill. The novel follows the story of Rachel and her obsession with the ‘perfect’ couple she sees each day from her commuter train to work. The couple, we learn, is everything Rachel once had – until one day they aren’t. In an effort not to spoil I’ll stop there, however I will recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl or loves a good psychological thriller. I also rate the movie.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.
Apparently I was one for books that were hitting the big screen last year. Another novel turned movie (or in this case mini-series), Big Little Lies follows the story of three very different women; Madeline, Celeste and Jane, and the lies they tell themselves (and each other) to get by. It explores a lot of different themes including domestic violence, relationships, mother-daughter dynamics and of course murder. Moriarty is a true genius. Her ability to intertwine each characters story into one another seamlessly is what makes this book so great. There are so many twists that it is impossible to predict what is around the corner.

It by Alexa Chung
While this book wasn’t released in 2016, I have only just gotten around to reading it. Part autobiography, part visual diary, part journal, this book gives you an intimate insight into the life of Alexa Chung. She shares everything from her style inspirations to boy advice (very good advice at that) and it is a great, easy read. Also A+ for being an excellent coffee table display book to make me look 100 per cent cooler than I actually am.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
This book absolutely broke my heart. I read it on the plane on the way home from my Christmas holidays and I pretty much sobbed through 3/4 of it. Glasgow is an incredible author whose gift of writing needs to be shouted from rooftops. The novel introduces us to 18 year old Charlie, who has already seen more than most people have at 18. But Charlie found a way to forget. She started to self harm. The book follows Charlie on her journey of self love and self acceptance, but not in a cliche way like you may be thinking. Girl in Pieces is incredibly raw and not at all for everyone. However, I think she explains the pain and loathing behind self harm beautifully and this book is definitely one to read.

– M x

What were your favourite books of 2016? Share them with me in the comments below!

The Self Love Club.

Self love.
Noun.
Regard for ones own well-being and happiness.

For someone that has struggled with depression and anxiety for a number of years, the concept of ‘self love’ is something that is seemingly unknown to me. Self loathing on the other hand, I am well aware of the term. It is something I deal with every single day.

The negative thoughts. The negative self talk. Self harm.

Self loathing is something I am good at. Self love, not so much. But I’m trying.
Every single day I make such an effort to be positive. To talk positively to myself. To remind myself that I am worth it. To remind myself that tomorrow is another day and that things do get better.

But sometimes it isn’t that easy to drown out the self loathing. Sometimes it is easier to fall into that deep, dark black hole that is depression. Today was definitely one of those days. It was the kind of day where everything felt like too much of an effort. Everything hurt. Everything felt dark.

But even on the bad days I am still trying so hard to practice self love. Even when I don’t want to I make the effort to shower. I make the effort to drink water. I make the effort to try.

I think the purpose of this post was more of a vent than anything else. A reassurance to all the other people that are struggling that it is okay to struggle through the bad days as long as you keep trying. Just keep trying to love yourself and look after yourself, no matter how hard it may seem.

Italian nostalgia.

Tiny winding streets, pizza, gelato, pasta, wine & a Europe winter. Need I say more?

I’m feeling incredibly reminiscent of my travels from the start of last year, so I thought I’d throw together a little blog post highlighting my favourite Italy pictures.

Florence - view from Duomo
Florence – view from Duomo
Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre
Florence
Florence
Florence - view from Duomo
Florence – view from Duomo
Cinque Terre - sunset
Cinque Terre – sunset
Siena
Siena
Siena - main square
Siena – main square

Antidote

Long distance flights – it’s a term that sends chills down my spine. Some people love it but for others it’s the thing of nightmares. These tips should help make that long haul a little easier.

1. Stay away from the booze
While the idea of drinking as much free alcohol as your body can handle may seem enticing or like a good way to fall asleep, trust us it’s not.  Alcohol is a depressant and it dehydrates your body. While you’re at it, try and stay away from the coffee. Just like alcohol, coffee will keep you awake and dehydrate you even more.

2. Move around

I know, how far can you move around in what is essentially a giant sardine can? The answer – not far. But making sure you get up and stretch every hour is a great way to keep your blood flowing properly and avoid things like deep vein thrombosis, which is blood clots in your veins, particularly in the large veins of the calf. Take regular toilet breaks and extend your walk up and down the aisles a few times before returning to your seat.

3. Choose your food wisely

There is nothing special about airplane food, and unless you’re flying first class (if so, you don’t need to be reading this, your 12+ hour flight will be a dream) you’re unlikely to be served restaurant quality food. One study by Professors at Yamaguchi University in Japan shows that carb rich foods can make it easier to transition between sleep and eating schedules by inducing insulin secretion.

In the days leading up to your flight, try not to eat anything that’s going to upset your digestive system. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a confined space when someone isn’t feeling 100 per cent.

4. Hydration is your best friend

Fun fact, the relative humidity in a plane drops to nearly zero in just 30 minutes – that’s nearly the same humidity as a desert. To counteract this, start hydrating the day before you start travelling and make sure you drink a lot of water. Kara Mulder, the founder of The Flight Attendant Life blog, says that drinking at least 250 ml’s of water every hour should prevent dehydration. Also try to have a good lip balm and a good moisturiser. It’ll make plenty of difference.

5. Location, location, location

This one comes down to personal preference, but getting the ideal seat on the plane is an essential key to staying sane. Some say a window seat is the best because you won’t get interrupted by those rude people that go to the toilet every 5 minutes. However, we at Voyage think the best seat is the middle row on an aisle. You’ll be able to move around at your own pace and won’t feel so confined!

6. Make like a girl scout and prepare!

Packing your carry on is another key thing to your survival. You want to make sure you have a neck pillow, an eye mask, noise cancelling headphones, toothpaste and a toothbrush, deodorant and plenty of entertainment. You’ll be thankful when you land.

7. Sleep

This point is really self-explanatory. The easiest way to get through a long flight is to try and sleep for as much of it as possible.

 

And really if all else fails, pop a few sleeping tablets and you’ll sleep through the whole nasty ordeal.